If you’ve gathered a few Conkers or Horse Chestnuts this Autumn, you may or may not be surprised to know that nature’s little autumnal beauties can actually be used as a laundry detergent.
Horse chestnuts work particularly well as laundry soap as they contain saponins, like soap nuts, which are the more common, eco-friendly laundry detergent that can be bought in specialist shops. Saponins is a soap-like chemical compound which is natural.
Horse chestnut trees are widely cultivated in streets and parks throughout the UK, Europe, the US and Canada. They are actually in the soapberry and lychee family, Sapindaceae. Soapnuts have been used to wash laundry or to make body wash in India for generations. However, with the increasing popularity of soapnuts throughout the world as an eco-friendly laundry detergent, its demand has led to the extensive export of soapnuts, which in turn has led to soapnuts becoming too expensive for many natives to afford.
The export of soapnuts across the globe leaves quite the carbon footprint. Also soapnuts need hot water in order for it to actively clean materials, making it not quite as eco-friendly an alternative as say horse chestnuts, which do not require to be used in the washing machine at a hot temperature to cleanse clothes.
- Collect your horse chestnuts in a reusable bag. On average, 11 pounds of horse chestnuts will be an adequate amount to last until the following Autumn, when you can will be able to collect horse chestnuts again.
- Cut 5-6 horse chestnuts into small pieces. After you have cut the horse chestnuts, blend the pieces in a blender. Note: you will need 70g of horse chestnut per load.
- Pour 120ml of boiling water over 110g (roughly 5-6 horse chestnuts) of chestnut fragments. The smaller your pieces, the shorter the steep time. For blended fragments, 15-30 minutes is all that’s needed to release the saponins. Cut quarters will require soaking overnight. Note: If you are cleaning whites, it is best to remove the skin of the horse chestnuts as the skin may discolour whites.
- Once the water has gone a milky soapy colour, remove the chestnut fragments with a strainer, and your laundry detergent is ready to use.
- If you like your laundry to have a scent, add a few drops of Lavender oil or any other essential oil of your choice to the laundry detergent.
- Any left over laundry detergent can be kept in the fridge for up to a week. The used conker fragments can be composted.
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea